September 2, 2020 12:56 AM
In the past few months, I’ve hired engineers in SF’s hyper-competitive talent market. I’m proud of how we ran a structured, culture-forward process to build a team with 50-50 gender diversity. Notably, several of my candidates sent me notes like this:
“You guys have a really great software engineering interview process and felt much more real to day to day work than other processes that I have gone through.”
Amazing candidate testimonials like these are a competitive advantage in today’s hiring market. I attribute these results to my personal hiring philosophy for engineers: Hire for culture, and technical capability will follow.
I implement this framework in two ways:
Why is this important?
I revisited our values:
I also interviewed our current team members to ask them what they found unique about Searchlight’s environment compared to their past role and what has helped them be successful at Searchlight.
Then, I created a comprehensive list of attributes and whittled it down to the most essential. It’s impossible to find someone who is great in all dimensions, so being clear about the most important traits sets me up to hire for strengths and not lack of weakness.
These attributes made up my Ideal Candidate Profile / Persona (skills and behaviors needed to perform well in a particular role):
I also came up with a Technical Success Profile:
Why is this important?
Here’s how I did it:
We asked candidates to submit their references through Searchlight before the on-site interview. It was important to me to understand each candidate’s unique work style and abilities from the people who know them best. And people who know a candidate best are the people who’ve worked with them before.
I used the insights from Searchlight to understand a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and their alignment with my Ideal Candidate Profile / Persona.
For example, here are real strengths and weaknesses that Searchlight highlighted for a candidate:
From the Strengths data, I saw that references independently corroborated that this candidate fit the “self-starter” and “commitment to learning” attributes of my Behavioral Success Profile!
And, from the Areas for Improvement, I knew that I would take time during the on-site interview to double-click on the candidate’s ability to ask for support and stay self-motivated.
Important note: The existence of coachable areas does not signal that a candidate is bad. Everyone has growth areas (I can confidently say that I’ve never hired anyone with zero weaknesses). So, the follow-up action here is to understand if I will be able to coach the candidate on their specific growth areas and set them up for success on my unique team.
Getting these Searchlight results during the hiring process was like being able to read each candidate’s most recent performance review. These learnings validated my team’s conclusions from the intro phone call and technical screens, filled in information gaps about the candidate, and set me up to make the best hiring decision.
As Peter Oh, Director of Engineering at Optimizely, shared with me, “No technical gap is too large for a highly motivated individual to cross if they’re in the right environment and know that this is what they want.”
With this in mind, you too can hire a diverse team of high-performing engineers while maintaining a great team culture by:
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